NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — With the heat already climbing into the 90s
despite the early morning hour, bands of athletes could be seen stretching,
jogging and readying equipment as they prepared for the day’s events.
However, most of these competitors require an addition to their usual athletic
gear — an extra prosthetic limb.
The athletes were gathered at the Texas Ski Ranch here for Extremity
Games 7 (eX7), an adaptive extreme sports competition for athletes with limb
loss or spinal cord injury. Now in its seventh year, Extremity Games was
created to raise awareness about athletes with limb loss and to give athletes
at every ability level an opportunity to compete against one another.
“Attending my first Extremity Games was an amazing experience. I
got to meet other athletes like myself who were pushing their boundaries at
such a high level,” Ronnie Dickson, an adaptive climber and the
leader of the rock climbing competition, told O&P Business News.
“It is really inspiring to be part of such a vibrant community, and I hope
everyone who participates is able to take a similar meaningful experience away
with them and realize that they only limits we have are the ones that we set
Biking and skateboarding
The eX7 Main Event kicked off with the mountain bike race. The bikers,
competing in either the transtibial, transfermoral or spinal cord injury
groups, completed six laps on the race course, which included a series of tight
turns, steep inclines and jumps. Andy May, the transtibial elite winner from
last year and a territory manager from Cascade Orthopedic Supply, successfully
maintained his title, securing a first place finish, followed by Greg LaKomski
in second and Ruben Macias in third. The transfermoral elite defending
champion, Stephen Buchler, also retained his title, with Peter O’Brien
placing second. Jim Santangelo, competing in his first Extremity Games,
inaugurated the spinal cord injury division and took home the first place
Images: Gilbride M. , O&P Business News
Following the bike race, spectators gathered at the other side of the
ranch to watch the skateboarders. The boarders were allotted a 10-minute
“jam session” to land their best tricks and impress the judges. Greg
Shaw stole the show and secured his first place victory by landing a kick flip,
big air transfer. Shaw, a paraplegic as a result of a congenital spinal
disorder called sacral agenesis, is also a member of the US National Sled
Hockey team, winning a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games in
Vancouver. Justin Beauchesne, whose arms and part of his right foot were
amputated in early childhood due to a bacterial infection, also impressed the
crowd with his handstand kick-flip, propelling him to a second place finish.
Oscar Loreto finished in third place.
For the first time, eX7 included a novice powerlifting competition.
Kedgerick Smith, who is paralyzed from the waist down, placed first after bench
pressing 350 pounds. Competing in the one-arm competition, Lucio Guerra
completed a 160-pound one-arm dumbbell press to easily secure his first-place
Kayaking and rock climbing
Out on the lake, the kayakers completed a series of heats to determine
who would race in the final. In his second event of the day, Jeff Waldmuller,
the men’s novice winner at eX6 last year, led the way for the men’s
elite group. Trailing closely behind him were Jim Wazny in second and Mike
Schulenberg in third. Representing the women’s elite group, Kelly Allen
defended her title from last year, edging out Kimberly Olson, second, and
Katelynn Porzell, third.
After the kayaking finale, everyone was happy to move inside the Texas
Ski Ranch facility and cool off in the air conditioning as the rock climbers
prepared to begin. Each competitor attempted three climbs, each getting
progressively harder, and the winner determined by the best times. Pete
O’Brien, a transfermoral amputee, impressed the crowd by removing his
prosthetic leg and scaling the wall with remarkable speed. Andy May, who had
already snagged one gold medal earlier in the day, notched a silver medal and
Waldmuller, the defending champion from last year, placed third. Juan Latoree,
Trevor Bunch and Seth Alexander all made their Extremity Games debuts placing
first, second and third, respectively, in the novice division. Olson, the only
female competitor in the event, received an honorable mention.
As the rock climbing competition came to a close, the crowd made their
way back outside for the eX7 finale, wakeboarding. In this event, boasting the
biggest athlete participation of the day, each boarder in both the elite and
novice groups was given 10 minutes to display their best moves on the lake.
In the elite group, the top three boarders moved on to the final round
where they were given one final run — two lengths of the lake — to
land their best tricks. Although all of the boarders displayed impressive
grabs, spins and flips, it was hard to compete with Extremity Games veterans
and former winners Sean Reyngoudt and Billy Tonis, who dominated the wake.
Logan Aldridge joined them in the top three.
Aldridge, who lost his left arm in a boating accident when he was 13
years old, was up first in the final round. During the first round, Aldridge
landed an impressive series of jumps, back flips and heelside shiftys, where
the boarder rotates his lower body mid-jump as he cuts across the wake, but he
struggled with his control during the finals.
Following Aldridge, Tonis jumped into the lake for his final run.
Tonis’s right arm was paralyzed as a result of a brachial plexus injury
from a motorcycle accident; he tucked it under his shirt and held the bar with
his left. Tonis commanded the wake, landing a series of 180·s and
backrolls with ease.
However, Reyngoudt, the eX6 champion and a transtibial amputee, stole
the show by landing a 360º rodeo, which is partially inverted 360º
turn with a back flip, to secure a first place finish. Tonis and Aldridge
followed in second and third, respectively.
The winners of the novice group were determined by their scores from the
first round. Trevor Wallace, a transfemoral amputee who lost his leg from an
infection, secured the gold medal, despite the fact that he was performing on a
borrowed knee after he broke his during a trial run the day before. Jim Wazny,
in his second event of the day, scored second, and newcomer Mike Rousselle, who
lost his left arm and right leg in a workplace accident, brought home a bronze
The motocross portion of the competition was held separately at Baja
Acres in Millington, Mich. on May 26. The event had two divisions: stand up,
for amputees, and sit down, for paraplegics, quadriplegics and those with limb
difference. Mike Schultz, a transfemoral amputee, placed first for the second
consecutive year, followed by Wazny in second and Nick Mardis in third. The sit
down winners were Darius Glover in first place, Jesse Gildea, second place and
John Harris, third place.
Extremity Games hosted its largest athlete participation
to date, more than doubling the participation rate from last year, along with
the countless volunteers, families and spectators also in attendance. All of
the winners in the elite group received cash prizes, and novice group winners
received a variety of prizes including gift cards and athletic apparel and
gear. — by Megan Gilbride
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(www.facebook.com/oandpbusinessnews) for exclusive photos and videos from eX7.